Domestic violence programs across the country say they have received letters from federal offices that dole out grant money informing them that after Friday, if the government is not reopened, they will cease operations and the programs won’t be able to draw down the funds they normally rely on. While some may be able to weather the storm, small, rural programs and those that rely heavily on federal money are looking at layoffs and disruptions in service.
On Thursday, a reader who runs a domestic violence and rape crisis center in Northern California shared a letter with Andrew Sullivan received from the Office of Justice Programs, which disburses funds from the Violence Against Women Act:
Office of Justice Programs (OJP) have sufficient resources to remain operational through Friday, October 4, 2013. This means that OJP staff will be available to assist grantees and OJP payment systems and services will be available through October 4, 2013. Should funding not be restored by October 4, 2013, OJP will cease all operations and California will not be able to draw down funds and reimburse your invoices.
Other programs confirmed they had gotten similar letters from OJP and other agencies. “The whole country has been told the same thing by the Office on Violence Against Women,” Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, told ThinkProgress. “We also have coalitions across the country that have been unable to draw down their reimbursements from FVPSA [Family Violence Prevention and Services Act] for funds already expended, which means they don’t have operating funds going forward. Some are already discussing layoffs.”
The impact of the loss of funds for those who serve and support victims of violence will vary depending on how much they rely on federal money and how their budgets are structured. Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said that after the drawdown system closes on Friday, “it will be a day to day question, especially for very small programs.” Grantees have been drawing down whatever funds they can before then, but “disruption in services may happen in the shutdown goes on for a significant time,” she said. “Most programs receive funds on a reimbursement basis, so building a reserve is very difficult.”
Some programs ThinkProgress spoke to are the lucky ones that have a bit of a cushion to keep operations going. While the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence has received the letter from OJP and “our other federal funds are also in limbo as a result of the shutdown,” Executive Director Deborah DeBare said, “we have at least a month of funding in reserves to keep our programs open for the immediate future.”
Julie Bornhoeft, director of development and community relations for WEAVE, a dual service agency serving victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Sacramento, said that because the organization has been able to diversify its funding to the point where less than half is federal money, it will have “greater flexibility and stability.” But she warned that “for an organization that is predominantly funded through federal grants or federally derived grants, even temporary disruption in cash flow will be detrimental.”
That seems to be the case for the Sullivan reader. “I run a small, rural domestic violence and rape crisis center in Northern California,” the reader wrote. “We are the only provider of this kind for the entire county and we are supported through funds from the Violence Against Women Act.” This will have severe consequences. “I can tell you with some certainty that many of the rural domestic violence shelters (who don’t have wealthy communities to draw from) will not be operational should the VAWA funding not be rolling down as scheduled.”
Domestic violence programs have been grappling with severe budget cuts for some time. Even before sequestration, nearly 80 percent of shelters nationwide reported getting less funding from the government, and 43 percent said that lower funding would result in pulling back on services. Sequestration meant a $20 million reduction in funding that was predicted to result in 70,120 fewer victims getting access to recovery programs and shelters.
But more and more women have been seeking help as the same economic troubles caused by the recession and stagnant recovery have increased and intensified abuse. Eight in 10 shelters report an increase in women seeking help and nearly 60 percent say the abuse is more violent than before the crisis. Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters of women are staying longer with their abuser for economic reasons. After sequestration, many programs told ThinkProgress that the likely consequence of budget cuts would be more abuse and, ultimately, more deaths. Those consequences are likely to intensify while the government remains shut down.